‘It’s not our first rodeo’

new balance

2023 NBA Playoffs - Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers

2023 NBA Playoffs – Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers

Daryl Morey and Philadelphia’s front office are trying to walk an almost impossible line: Trade James Harden while remaining title contenders this season and maintaining cap space and flexibility next summer to chase another star. It’s all in the service of trying to keep MVP Joel Embiid happy and not asking out of Philly.

What does all that feel like for team members? Guys who thought they were on a contender and now face uncertainty? Tyrese Maxey addressed the “elephant in the room” on his Maxey on the Mic podcast. (Hat tip Liberty Ballers.)

“It’s crazy to say this, but it’s not our first rodeo, honestly. That’s funny to say, but that’s life. James is his own individual and he’s able to do whatever he pleases. I’m preparing right now to play with him or without him. … and I love James. If James decided he’s going to come back and play for us, there’s nobody in this organization that would be upset about that.”

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People ask me, ‘If James doesn’t come back, do y’all see this season as a wash?’… I think with the position that the Sixers are in we can’t ever see a season as “a wash.” We have talent. We have the reigning MVP on our team. We have to go out there and expect to win. Expect to still try to complete our goal. It’ll definitely be even more difficult now that one of our best players has decided as of right now he doesn’t want to come back and play. That’s how life goes.”

Maxey’s rodeo comment refers to Ben Simmons, who asked for a trade and ended up away from the team until close to the trade deadline a couple of years ago, when Simmons was traded to Brooklyn for Harden. The 76ers were 32-22 (fifth in the Eastern Conference) before that trade was made, and eventually, with Harden, they advanced to the second round of the playoffs, where they fell to the Heat.

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Much like that team, these 76ers will be good without Harden (or another star in his place, should Morey end up trading him for picks and expiring contracts to maintain cap space and flexibility for next summer). However, in an East with Milwaukee, Boston and Miami (especially if it pulls off the Damian Lillard trade) there seems to be a ceiling. And as Maxey says, these 76ers do not want a “gap year.”
Maxey is saying what every player on the 76ers will say, some version of “We’re still very good, I’m just going to control what I can control.” However, what they say and feel privately may be different, especially if this situation and the Philly season starts to go sideways.

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